If you build it, they will coach
Written by Chad T. Dyar, Sales Enablement Expert
We can all agree that all coaching, not just coaching sales reps, is important. Our coaches from an early age set us on a course in life whether it is on the little league ball field or on the sales floor. There’s the old saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” and coaching is one tried and true path to gaining some of that knowledge.
Recently, after some first-class training from The Bridge Group, our Revenue Team leadership decided to make coaching sales reps a top priority. It’s not like sales performance coaching wasn’t already happening. It just wasn’t happening in a consistent and measurable way. The majority of the sales managers on the floor were promoted internally, and are still building out their skill sets. With busy schedules and aggressive quotas, time just wasn’t being set aside for effective sales coaching.
To get the ball rolling we knew we would have to build something from the ground up. Our approach had to be something that could be universally adopted across all sales teams and channels. Coaching sales reps had to be a value-add that didn’t feel overwhelming, or too time-consuming.
At OnDeck, we have agents who aren’t used to being coached who want to focus on selling. We have frontline managers who are living at the deal level and prefer not to be off of the sales floor. At the end of the day, if effective sales coaching is going to be a top priority it has to make sense to everyone and be an easy sell to the entire team. In addition to those challenges, the directors and VPs have to be able to measure the impact of coaching sales reps across the team in a meaningful way. We have to make sure if we are going to hold our managers and salespeople accountable, that we generate a meaningful impact on the team and the bottom line.
I tend to have a pretty specific process when building out an idea. First some ground rules:
- Keep it simple (For now and always)
- Keep it structured (My favorite)
- Keep it scalable (If you want it to last)
Our Sales Coaching Plan
Sales Rep Self-Identification
We had the Sales Directors send out emails to the team members that rolled up to them requesting two pieces of information:
- Rate Yourself: Are you an A, B, C, or D player?
- Please give two reasons why you chose the letter you chose
Example A: I am an A performer because I typically generate the highest volume on the team.
Example B: I am a B player because I overachieve but not as consistently as I would like.
Example C: I consider myself to be average because I am generally in the middle of the pack when it comes to quota attainment.
Example D: Do you really want to say why you are a D player? (I’m just sayin’)
After the Directors compiled all of the feedback, they scheduled meetings with the managers to go through each member of their team and perform the following exercise:
- Managers rate each member of their team on the A, B, C, D scale
- Managers guess which letter each team member rated themselves
This is a bonus exercise that helps the Directors evaluate management by seeing who really has their finger on the pulse of their team
Knocking Down the “I Don’t Have Time” Excuse
There is a finite amount of time available each month for managers to be off of the floor focusing on coaching sales reps so we decided to map each letter to the time that a manager would spend with each member of their team each week.
Example: A = 30 minutes, B = 1 hour, C = 45 minutes, D = 15 minutes (D’s are generally on the wrong seat on the bus so these conversations are shorter and more focused on finding them a better opportunity)
This is version #1 so there will be flexibility moving forward—but committing to this time and making sure the first month of sales coaching sessions happen, will help us build future iterations on the coaching process
Even with a team of 10 B players (those don’t exist at the moment), Managers would be coaching 2 hours a day. That’s the maximum—and with Team Leads lending a hand, the ratio is closer to 5:1, which means an hour a day max dedicated to sales performance coaching, which should be totally achievable
The Dreaded Sales Coaching Schedule
Managers meet with their Accountabilabuddies to put together a personalized sales coaching plan and schedule. This part was crucial in selling this to our managers. Each manager has a partner manager for coverage. They share calendars with each other and they make sure when one of them is coaching sales reps, the other is on the sales floor. The Sales Directors and VPs are also going to be available for coverage to react in real-time to any escalations that need to be dealt with.
- Sales Managers block calendars and send invites for the MONTH
- Leadership works as a team to tackle real-time challenges
- Excuses about time and coverage are out of the way!
Area (Singular) of Focus
Managers and Directors choose a SPECIFIC and actionable area of focus for each salesperson for the month.
Example: Closing skills, handling objections, building rapport, product positioning, etc.
There is no need to overshoot when it comes to goals for MONTH ONE. Most programs like this fail because they are overly ambitious. It is hard to measure marked improvement in one of the focus areas above at a time. It is nearly impossible to measure impact in multiple areas of sales performance coaching.
Sales Coaching Tools (AKA the “How”)
You have a bigger bag of tricks than you think. When it comes to the “HOW” of effective sales coaching there’s a lot of THERE there. The next level of committing to the process focuses on the HOW. You have the rating, the schedule (and coverage), and skill to focus on. Now it’s time to pull out the toolbox. A few examples of effective sales coaching methods are:
- Call listening—pull your sales rep into a room and listen to some calls
- Role-playing—build scenarios that highlight a sales rep’s challenge and role-play through examples
- Side by side listening—sidle over next to a sales rep and listen to their sales calls in real-time
Measuring the IMPACT of Coaching Sales Reps
The Bridge Group provided a SCORECARD in Excel that allows managers to track every aspect of a sales call. The tracker is in the form of a checklist. This is a great diagnostic tool and an easy way to measure the impact of sales performance coaching. We translated this into a scorecard within ExecVision.
Is your rep asking open ended discovery questions? If the NO turns into a YES over the course of a month, progress has been made.
The weekly sales coaching scorecards are submitted to directors on Friday by 5pm and then the Directors meet on Mondays to discuss progress, themes, challenges, and a plan to develop the managers into stronger coaches. Then in the Director/Manager weekly one on ones, the Directors put on the coaching hat.
This is how we are approaching developing an effective sales Coaching Culture here at OnDeck. I’ll keep you up to date on the successes and challenges ahead!